Is Flooring Really Boring?

Pictured home: 11-1854 Painui St, Mountain View. Currently listed featuring climate-friendly tile floors. 

You can learn a great deal on our Real Estate Wine’ Downs! Naturally, there’s always great wine tutoring and updated market info, but our kind guest experts educate beyond expectations. During our most recent session, Loretta Montibon from Carpet Isle not only revealed what’s hot and what’s not but also how choices differ.

The Wish-List

I can attest that buyers want “low-maintenance.” They also want climate-friendly, which means they tend toward solid surface options such as wood or vinyl laminate, engineered flooring, and tile. Carpeting may still be popular in cooler climates where people tend to want warm toes in the morning, but in Hawai`i, it’s not what today’s buyers prefer.

Tile Trends

Loretta says that when it comes to tile, grout lines are key. Some tiles are fired in a mold resulting in irregularly shaped pieces and larger, inconsistent grout lines. Other tiles are formed in “slabs” and laser-cut, which makes for small grout lines because one piece meets the next precisely. The trend today is for pieces larger than the 12×12 or even 12×24 to which we are accustomed, but they are more difficult to install. So be sure your installer has experience working with the larger variety.

Sand vs Epoxy

Grout can be of the sand-based or epoxy variety. Sand based grout requires sealing and maintenance while the more expensive epoxy option should not. Epoxy is superior in wet areas. Today’s epoxy is a third-generation variety, which again, requires installation experience.

Porcelain vs Ceramic

I always wondered if porcelain tile was superior to ceramic. I was surprised to learn that ceramic works just fine in our climate. In colder areas, porcelain is not as prone to cracking.

Laminate, Vinyl, Engineered & Solid Wood

Laminate floors, including vinyl laminates, are really photos applied to a base. Vinyl laminate mimics wood with a more water-proof surface. Quality is key with either wood or vinyl laminate. The “wear layer” can vary widely (6 to 20 mil). The thinner the wear layer, the faster the flooring will need to be replaced. This not only means an unexpected expense, but it also adds material to our already over-stressed landfill. Texture is a feature of laminates that keeps it from scratching.

It should come with an attached pad, and the locking system should state of the art. These floors tend to separate slightly in the heat. The locking system keeps this to a minimum. Look for ratings from G1 to G4.

Engineered floors are constructed of thin slices of real wood over an engineered backing. Loretta says engineered floors wear better than solid wood these days. Newer varieties of solid wood tend to bow because it’s created from younger trees than in years past. Using engineered woods is a clever way to save our forests because it takes a fraction of the tree to create the same finish as hardwood. Engineered flooring can be refinished just like hardwood, while laminate requires replacing when scratches or damage occurs.

Knowledge is power. It’s best not to be penny-wise and pound foolish, as they say. 

Online Meet-Up

Join us at our next meeting as we take another deep dive into expanding your real estate vocabulary. Just email me for the Zoom invite! We’ll explore not only Danny Krause’s market trends, but my quarterly look at selected neighborhoods. In the meantime, be safe and have a happy 2021!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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James J Bucholtz

January 8, 2021

Sorry but you are wrong on two points. Engineered floors have a thin top bonded to a wood substrate. If they save any wood it is due to the overall thickness. However, wood is a renewable resource and biodegradable. While an engineered floor can be refinished, it can only be done once whereas a solid wool floor can be refinished over and over. This means that you will have to replace the engineered floor faster than the solid wood floor. If you want to discuss flooring you need to talk about wood density. Koa is 2X as dense as teak and therefore less likely to dent, which is a problem that customers worry about. I installed solid wood Koa floors in my Connecticut home and dropped heavy objects on it with little or no damage. This is not intended to be a criticism just an attempt to illuminate you on some facts that you overlooked.

Denise Nakanishi, R(B)

January 10, 2021

Mahalo for your feedback James! Let me know if you ever want to join us at our online meet-ups to share your insight. We meet every other week on Zoom to talk story about flooring, and all things Real Estate.

My email is 🙂

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